Saturday, April 24, 2010

Word on the Lighthouse from – Gary Bettman?

Yes, Gary Bettman seems to be the only one NOT under a gag order when it comes to discussing the Lighthouse Project and the future of the NY Islanders franchise. After months of silence, Newsday has a small article by reporter Steve Zipay (their Rangers beat writer no less) who was able to obtain quotes from the Commissioner while he held a press conference with “sports editors from around the country.”

Mr. Bettman has been a staunch supporter of owner Charles Wang for years and believes very much in keeping the NY Islanders firmly planted where they are – ON LONG ISLAND. However, this week on his NHL Hour XM radio show and various other venues he has been vocal about the truth “The Islanders will not stay in that building one minute more than they have to.”

No news there. We’ve heard that for years and the lease with the county gets progressively closer to its end date. The only news we have been given is that the deal with SMG has been terminated and the Islanders will now gain revenue from the concessions and parking (whose prices have been raised) and has developed the “Islanders Entertainment” umbrella. Good for them. They’ve been stiffed for years. Now what about us?

When Chris Dey took over the helm of the listing NY Islanders ship he told us to take “emotional ownership” of the team. He invited us in, he held us close. We became involved. We rallied. We petitioned. We spoke out. We showed up. Sadly, the downturn in the economy caused us to not show up as much as we would have liked to, but we did the best we could. We answered the call as often as we were asked.

As the fateful day in October loomed, we chewed out nails wondering what would happen at the “deadline for the decision.” The deadline came and went. The election came – and went – right out the window with Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray retaining her stronghold on the office and friend of the Lighthouse Project Tom Suozzi being ousted by Republican Edward Mangano. Then the lights went out in Uniondale.

Coverage went black. Newsday’s Eden Laikin, the only MSM source for information from the town, left Newsday for a politically tied position and the Lighthouse Project spokespeople went mum. The bloggers who have covered the situation most closely were left to go deep underground searching for answers and mostly obtaining misinformation, speculation and fabrication.

However, Commissioner Gary Bettman is allowed to speak his mind to any outlet he wishes and is always genuine with his answers. But he poked the political bear when he said “There’s a new county executive, very nice guy, but he needs to get up to speed, which is unfortunate because Charles has now been at this for eight or nine years. I don’t think that anybody with the Islanders could have imagined that they’d still not have any answers. Hempstead hasn’t done anything but elongate the process and his attitude at this point is: ‘I’ve done everything I can and at some point they’ve got to come to me.’ If not, he’ll start looking at his options on Long Island first to see what he can do, but the club has to have a new arena.”

That is 100 more words than we’ve heard on the subject in months. It is also exactly what the Lighthouse Project has done. If you check their webpage today that is what it says. To paraphrase the posting “Thanks a lot. We’ve got nothing to say. We’re waiting on Kate Murray.”

And wait they shall. I personally lost interest after hearing that Kate Murray wanted the Town to have the property rezoned so as to make the Lighthouse Project plans that the developers have spent more than $15,000,000 on unacceptable. I scratched my head at that one trying to figure out how after winning the original RFP the Town could rezone the property making huge portions of the proposal the developers had worked for years on unsuitable. Huh? Can they DO that???

I asked around, no one answered me. I didn’t push. I do not have friends in the Town or informants in lower political ranks. I don’t play tennis with Mr. Wang or brunch with his partners. I straddle the world of fan mob and new media with others on the lower rungs of the journalistic food chain. If I send an email and it doesn’t get a response, that’s where I end my search. But I do listen and I do read.

I have been criticized on more than one occasion for not speaking out or speaking up especially as one who was involved in the battle early on. Okay, so here goes.
Sure, I’m a little hurt and disappointed about being kept in the dark for so long with no official word on where things stand. I don’t like it. But as a mother of a teenager I am quite used to it. Would it be great if there was word from both sides of the fence to let us know what was REALLY going on? Sure. But would that taint the outcome? It’s very possible. Would it make the slightest bit of difference? Uh, who knows.

I understand the need for silence when it comes to high profile situations, especially political or financial ones. However, after agreeing to “emotional ownership,” I just didn’t expect the Islanders to be one of those situations. It stings.

Thank you, Mr. Bettman, for at least saying SOMETHING on the subject. But I guess I'll hear something when they need me. Oh well, back to hockey.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Also Bettman did NOT refute a rumor by a source for Boomer and Carlin (who interviewed Gary a few weeks back on that the Islanders have been talking with NYC about a possible relocation to Queens. And in another interview (possibly with Steve Zipay), "Bettman did not dispute that Wang has been looking at the Flushing Meadows site where chop shops will be relocated opposite Citifield, a tract which apparently will be up for bid this summer". Recent developments: 1. A)Islanders signed a sub-lease where they have to pay SMG 17 million whether or not they stay in 2015
B)receive revenues from parking concessions, and non-Islander events C) The Islanders can leave NVMC before 2015 pending Nassau County approval
2. In an interview with Howie Rose in January, Wang said "we would like to stay in Nassau County, Long Island, but we are actively looking at other options."
3. A rumour: According to Nick in Let There Be Lighthouse, Mangano tried to reach out to Wang a few times, no response. If 3) is true in combination of other events listed above, I think the Islanders pretty much punched out their ticket out of Nassau County unless Fat Murray gives Wang what he wants (a very unlikely scenario). Also as the Islanders signed a sublease with SMG that made Republicans angry, Murray may want to insert a condition in the new lease that may be unfavorable to the Islanders because Islanders "skimped" bribe money that SMG used to give to the Republicans from NVMC revenues. Most importantly, I think it's absolutely RIDICULOUS to play in an arena that is owned by someone else if the Isles are going to develop the land around it. At least in Queens, the Islanders will pay property taxes on the land and the development, which means they will OWN the land and the development. I am still waiting to hear from you on my question about whether the Shea Stadium has had any foundation problems due to harmful chemicals in Willets Points (these chemicals do NOT respect human made borders). So far your argument against Willets Point is pretty much lauguable.